Alfonso Cuaron rocked your world with Children of Men. But now he's taking us into orbit with the "astronauts in danger" movie Gravity. And it is basically the most intense roller-coaster ride of the year, judging from the scenes we watched at Comic-Con just now.
Seriously. Fucking scary. This is not a meditative "hanging out in space contemplating the universe" movie. This is a "flying head over heels in space, with debris zooming around and no sense of up or down" movie, in which shit is basically out of control from the very first moment.
The footage we saw starts with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock floating above the Earth, working on a connection to the International Space Station. Clooney is telling a funny story about a thing that happened to him at Mardi Gras. And then Houston suddenly cancels the mission and tells them to get out of there.
We soon find out what's happened — the Russians have blown up one of their own satellites, probably a secret spy satellite that they were decommissioning, and there's been an unexpected wave of debris flying upwards at the speed of a bullet train — basically, there's tons of space shrapnel moving at supersonic speeds. Satellites are being trashed, and Clooney jokes that half of America just lost its Facebook.
Bullock is taking too long to disconnect from her Hubble systems, and Clooney keeps ordering her to leave immediately. But she's too late. And then they lose communication with Houston, and we see basically a bunch of hot knives coming up at them from low orbit.
Soon they have a "man down," as one of the other astronauts is knocked off by debris.
And then we see Sandra Bullock's astronaut on a tilt-a-whirl in space as she gets flung every which way on the piece of ISS that she's strapped to. She's trying to disconnect herself from her harness, as Clooney urges, but it's hard. And when she finally disconnects, she's flung, somersaulting, off into the distance.
At one points she's spinning so fast and so disorientingly that you pretty much get vertigo just watching. And she can't breathe. She tries to grab a hold of Clooney but loses it.
And then there's one shot where Bullock is holding on to a satellite by one hand, as it collides with another satellite, and bits of satellite are flying in all directions. And a third satellite is coming up in the background. It's like demolition derby in space.
Basically, insane danger, hundreds of miles away from any kind of help. This is the closest we've felt in a long time to the real intensity of being in outer space.
Cuaron told the Hall H audience that the entire film is just Clooney and Bullock, playing off each other. And even though you hear explosions in the teaser trailer, the actual movie is accurate — there is no sound in space.
The most astonishing thing we learned on the Gravity panel was that Bullock was "insulated" (as Cuaron put it) inside a small cube, with LED light rigs shining on her, and car manufacturing robots are going around her with cameras. The whole thing was designed to make her look like she's really floating in zero-G, so if she's upside-down her face doesn't show any signs of gravity pulling her face. And over on the side of the room with the cube was rows and rows of computers with "a bunch of wise geeks" doing tons of work.
Because it took so long to get Sandra Bullock into her rig, she just stayed in her cube between takes — so she was in there for hours.
And there was a camera robot that would sometimes circle around until it was facing Bullock's face — and then race towards her face at top speed, and stop an inch from her nose. And if they tried to hit the "brake" button on the camera robot, it would be too late. And Bullock was locked in place, so she couldn't move out of the way.
At one point, an exec asked Cuaron, "Why are you doing all that?" Why not just have Bullock in an office chair, with a guy running around her with a lamp?
But Bullock went into this filming thinking she was going to be filming on board the "vomit comet," in actual Zero-G. That prospect terrified her so much, that when she found out there was no vomit comit involved, she was totally okay with whatever else they needed her to do.
Cuaron is a "madman," said David Heyman, who never stops pushing his limits and being "a pain in the ass. He always pushes his limits."
Cuaron told the crowd he was inspired by 1970s films like A Man Escaped, Spielberg's Duel, Vanishing Point and Runaway Train. "But together with that, we wanted to do a film that's an emotional journey."